The Coach Speaks Out!

The Coach Speaks Out
with Mike Lushington

    Well, home again and back in the saddle, so to speak. It has been a most interesting month, what with a long road trip to the American Midwest to visit our son and his family in Kansas and then a quick trip south to Florida to visit Carla's Mom. From there, I got back home just in time to turn around and fly out to Comox, British Columbia with a group of local biathlon cadets who were supposed to compete in the Canadian National Cadet Biathlon Championships.

    I say, "supposed to compete", and they did, albeit not in the way that we had imagined and prepared for all winter. There was no snow, none whatever, but the organizers decided that competitions would go ahead in any case. there is a summer biathlon format, where athletes run and shoot, instead of ski. That is what they did. Unfortunately, although there had been no snow, there had been plenty of rain where the competition was to take place, with the result that the whole site was little more than a quagmire.

    We arrived on a Saturday, after a long flight from Moncton and what amounted to a twenty-eight hour day, what with the four time zones that we had had to cross. Early on Sunday, we headed up to the site - an hour up the mountain by bus from where we were staying - to look over the site and to zero in our rifles in for the following day's competition. It rained all day, and by the end of the afternoon, the area around the shooting range had been reduced to something that looked like mud - six inches or more of it - and that had the consistency of slippery glue.

    It rained, on and off, on Monday, the first day of competition - and then it got serious. I can honestly say that, in nearly thirty years of coaching and working at various competitive events, that I have never spent a day quite like that Tuesday, the second day of competition and the team relay. It rained. Sometimes it poured; at other times it merely sulked and dripped, but it never stopped. The temperature was around five degrees, which ensured that it stayed cold and miserable all the while. I found myself on the shooting range at 8:30. By !2:00, I was firmly convinced that it couldn't get any worse, but I was wrong. By 3:30, when I was finally able to get out of it and back on the bus, I realized that I had a whole new standard by which to measure "miserable". the athletes, of course, were soaked, and completely covered with mud - so much so by the end of their respective competitions that many of them literally dove into puddles, in defiance of the whole mess, I guess.

    After that, things did improve and we experienced a couple of days that people around here can only fantasize about at this time of year.and through it all, the athletes performed heroically. They complained, laughed, joked around - and tried as hard as they possibly could to make the best of a challenging situation. I was proud of them - all of them - because they didn't quit and, in the end, came home with memories that, I am certain will not dull over the years. I am certain, years from now, when I bump into one or other of them that, sooner or later, one of us is bound to say,"Remember the Mud Bowl in Comox?"

    How could we ever forget?

    Yours sincerely,

Mike Lushington, Dalhousie


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